UMass Amherst’s Elaine Marieb College of Nursing Receives $2 Million Gift

AMHERST — A $2 million gift to UMass Amherst’s Elaine Marieb College of Nursing will create a new comprehensive mentoring and scholarship program to enhance diversity and inclusion within the college. The gift will create a new program called the Seedworks Equity in Nursing Fund, which will provide scholarships, mentoring, and peer-to-peer support for aspiring nursing students from diverse backgrounds.

The gift was made to the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing by Susan Hagedorn, who graduated from UMass Amherst in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Hagedorn is a nurse practitioner and educator who has dedicated her career to social justice. The impactful gift comes via the Seedworks Fund, a nonprofit fund founded by Hagedorn and her children, Hope Hagedorn Reeves, Will Hagedorn Paterson, and Jennifer Paterson Turner. Hagedorn is a longtime strong supporter of the College of Nursing, and previously donated funds to start an endowed professorship in social justice in nursing, currently held by Professor Raeann LeBlanc.

Hagedorn is a professor emerita at the University of Colorado, where she earned a doctorate degree in nursing. She also holds a master’s degree from Boston College in maternal-child nursing. She has practiced and taught psychiatric, pediatric, and public-health nursing, as well as provided training for pediatric and women’s health nurse practitioners. She is also a filmmaker who has produced more than 20 films focusing on nursing and social justice, including the film Deputized, a documentary about a murder on Long Island, N.Y. that was screened at UMass in 2016. This year she released a film called The Berrigans: Devout and Dangerous, that is getting national acclaim at independent film festivals across the country. The film is about two Catholic priests dedicated to non-violent resistance during the Vietnam era. She is currently working on a new documentary about racism in nursing.

“The Seedworks Fund is committed to the UMass Amherst Elaine Marieb College of Nursing and believe they have the will and ability to engage and support diversifying the nursing program,” Hagedorn said. “Diversifying nursing education makes nursing care better and, therefore, improves the health of all. This program is meant to increase equity in nursing and social justice in healthcare.”

Starting this fall, the gift will provide funding for scholarships to nursing students who may have challenges to accessing higher education. It will also support a mentoring program that will include faculty and nursing leaders, networking and professional-development workshops, and activities that will strengthen recruitment of high-school students interested in healthcare careers.

“If you care about equity in this country, you need to work on elevating people professionally,” trustee Will Paterson said. “This is an issue that spans nearly every professional workplace from medicine to accounting to teaching. For a long time, these industries have been dominated by white people, particularly at the leadership level. The Seedworks Fund is designed to address some of those disparities in the specific field of nursing, and we are incredibly proud of both the design and aspiration.”

Allison Vorderstrasse, dean of the Elaine Marieb College of Nursing, noted that “the Seedworks Equity in Nursing Fund will enable the UMass Amherst Elaine Marieb College of Nursing to empower potential nursing students whose identities reflect the diversity of the communities they will be serving. It is such a pleasure to connect with Sue Hagedorn, who so intimately understands the need to transform healthcare into a more equitable and inclusive sector. We are deeply grateful for her support of such a crucial aspect of nursing education.”

Vorderstrasse said inequities are present in the field of nursing, where, according to a recent survey by the Health Resources and Services Administration, almost three-quarters of nurses are non-Hispanic white, and about 90% are women. A recent report by the National Academy of Medicine showed that only 17% of full-time nursing faculty are from under-represented groups.

The program will explore offering summer courses or immersion experiences to rising high-school students that aim to strengthen their preparation for college admission and engagement in nursing. The Elaine Marieb College of Nursing will also use the gift to support an effort to enrich the college’s curriculum by incorporating health equity into its foundation.

Hagedorn will be featured at the UMass Amherst “Reckoning with Racism in Nursing” event on Monday, Sept. 27.